Breach of confidentiality

(37 Posts)
Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 17:34:01

Can't believe I've received an email from a teacher accidentally attaching a risk assessment form for a recent overseas trip naming pupils and detailing their behavioural issues etc. My own son was named with another three as having possible emotional difficulties (he has Aspergers but no issues of behaviour only disbelief at others' behaviour!). Have obviously reported it to the highest level, but cannot believe this has happened.

Just need to offload really. Waiting for them to get back to me. Unbelievable.

Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 17:36:28

Forgot to say, another two were named as being liable to lash out in temper, and another five or six with possible bad behaviour. All full names were given!

sitzonhandz Mon 20-May-13 17:41:21

V easy to do, but obviously unnerving for you. Teacher obviously used contacts list and picked up the wrong address.

This happened to me - I received an email meant for another parent detailing the additional support agreed upon for the child.

I relied to the teacher, explaining her mistake, and suggesting she double check addressees in future. And despite the child (and parent) in question being friends of mine (I actually work with the mother) they will never know I received confidential info.

Sure, you could make a big song and dance and upset everyone, or you could reply and suggest she resend to the appropriate addressee. The teacher will be so mortified it will never happen again.

And then delete.

Or it'll be worth a good few hours of glee on mn, anyway.

Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 18:00:43

Sorry, have to disagree. This should absolutely not occur, this is why each school has a confidentiality policy. IMO this should not occur. Obviously the names and details contained therein will go no further, but it does beg the question of what other delicate information is sent out wrongly? Perhaps it's a case of "until your own child is involved". Staff are privy to incredibly private and delicate information and as such it should be treated with the utmost care.

Didn't comment on here to cause a few hours of glee (it certainly has caused me no glee), but merely to let of steam as this is the second time it's happened!

Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 18:02:18

Sorry, also meant to say that it wasn't sent to me in error, as I was expecting an email regarding my other child, but merely that it was mistakenly attached to said email.

LynetteScavo Mon 20-May-13 18:26:28

It's human error.

The teacher didn't do it on purpose. Of course it shouldn't have happened. They will be mortified.

I'm not sure why you've posted, as you don't seem to need any advice. confused Hope letting of steam by writing it down has helped.

MisForMumNotMaid Mon 20-May-13 18:33:01

What do you propose? The teacher is disciplined/ sacked? Financial compensation?

Yes its a breach of confidentiality. It shouldn't of happened but teachers are humans not machines. What actual harm has resulted from this?

ubik Mon 20-May-13 18:37:46

I agree with the responses - these things happen; tell the teacher, they will probably vomit with the stress of it all and never mistakenly send an email attachment again.

Or you can hop up and down and cause a huge fuss and cause a good teacher to be disciplined/sacked/go sick with stress.

Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 18:56:56

Misformum - the damage caused is that one believes that personal info is personal - simple. I'm sure if the other kids' parents involved knew that I'd been made privy to their kids' difficulties/emotional vulnerabilities they'd say that some damage had been done. Damage to parents' trust for one thing.

No I don't want anyone to lose their job or cause them to be off with stress (although that wouldn't be unusual), I have simply asked to be reassured that all measures possible are in place to prevent this from happening again. Also, who knows how many times this actually occurs.

I posted on here just to vent. Sorry - I seem to have hit a nerve!

Blissx Mon 20-May-13 20:07:29

What measures do you think will prevent human error, OP?

The only way othe parents/guardians know that you have seen this risk assessment is if you tell them. I am sure that you would not divulge this information on purpose, would you? Therefore, they will never know and minimal damage caused.

adeucalione Mon 20-May-13 20:36:48

I once received school reports for five other children (in the envelope with my own child's report).

I decided to handle it tactfully - gave them back to the teacher and assured her that I wouldn't tell anyone else. She was mortified, but I still can't see how shaming her or reporting her would've achieved anything. In a moment of distraction she had done a daft thing, and no procedure can ever be error free.

TeenAndTween Mon 20-May-13 20:43:18

you do seem to have read alot of it before deciding it was a breach of confidentiality ...

Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 20:56:43

There wasn't a great dealt to read really - but enough to say that it is wrong on every level. Should I have read it? Well, I'd be amazed at anyone who wouldn't although there are probably plenty who'd say they wouldn't but I think they'd be lying. Will I tell anyone? Of course not. I have already deleted it. Point is, if it has happened to me then it's probably happened to someone else, and would someone else keep quiet on what they'd read? Maybe not.

As a parent I want to know that private info I share with the school stays private. Can't quite believe no-one agrees with me, but hey ho! Must just be me. I'm not annoyed anymore, so job done. Thank you!

MisForMumNotMaid Mon 20-May-13 21:05:48

I agree with you that I want private personal information to stay private. In the circumstance I interpret from your original post I was a little surprissed by the reported to the highest level, awaiting their response comments.

What is the highest level... Chair of governors, head of education at the LEA, Mr Gove?

Is this one incident, that I agree is unfortunate and I understand you seeking assurance that it doesn't happen again, the thing that you feel their efforts are best focused on?

Glad to hear that you're feeling less annoyed.

Cheecheemonkey Mon 20-May-13 22:24:15

Oh yes, I let Mr Gove know and David Cameron, just to be on the safe side!!! Back to the real world now and I in fact tried in the first instance to contact the teacher concerned, had no luck, and because I was concerned at a possible error in the system rather than human error (as this email had other anomalies) I let a deputy know in case this was duplicated and sent out to others (as my son's name is included I really don't want this circulated).

I have been angry that this is the second time we have experienced a breach in confidentiality, and errors are still being made. To say, oh well ... the poor teacher will be mortified isn't good enough. This teacher is a lovely teacher in fact, however schools must take great care with sensitive documents and every precaution should be in place in order these breaches do not occur. If a social worker leaves documents regarding an individual on a park bench for anyone to read would you say, don't make a fuss, mistakes happen, bet they're sick with embarrassment. I don't think so. Would anyone be happy for their doctor to accidentally send their medical notes to another patient, and would you feel that an understandable human error? I don"t expect anyone would....... or maybe it's just me. hmm

IrrelevantElephant Mon 20-May-13 22:27:47

Totally agree- children's details should NOT be sent via email,
Especially since it is so easy to send it to someone else. I think the school should have some sort of secure messaging service, or password protect all external emails.

BriansBrain Mon 20-May-13 22:33:39

It may be a case of the teacher scanning into email and picking up the other paperwork at the same time without knowing.

It isn't great but as long as you are discreet I am sure the teacher will never just scan and send without checking ever again, it's human error.

ProphetOfDoom Mon 20-May-13 22:57:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sitzonhandz Tue 21-May-13 00:05:18

Cheechee, with two sn kids, there's a shedload of confidential emails that fly back and forth between doctors, paed's, consultants, health professionals, social services.

It's hard enough to coordinate support between external (even internal) organizations even using emails - I can't imagine how much harder it would be if suddenly it wasn't allowed because one in a thousand emails ended up with the wrong recipient.

I think it's about the big picture, really. And irrelevant elephant, I really hope you don't ever get to influence the policy of any organization that I or my children rely on for support. The entire system would grind to a complete halt.

Cheecheemonkey Tue 21-May-13 07:40:14

Firstly, I never said info couldn't be sent by email. If you read my message I said better care should be taken with sensitive docs. Someone attached a sensitive doc to an email to myself. Of course people can't stop using email, that's ridiculous. All I said was that when schools deal with personal info about their pupils such info should stay personal, I.e. not be sent to other parents.

I am not attacking teachers here - most do a very good and very difficult job, and yes they work long hours and organise many trips and other events all in their own time. I only pointed out that a school's Confidentiality Policy should be taken seriously as that is the reason it exists, and as a parent one believes that their child's private, medical, emotional and educational details will not be put into the public domain, I.e. mistakenly sent to another parent. I'm not talking about sharing with hospitals, doctors and the like as I know they can and do with permission or without it if a child is thought to be at risk. Just not sent to another parent.

Sorry, I seem to have upset a lot of you. God only knows why?

tiredaftertwo Tue 21-May-13 08:09:35

OP, just chiming in to say I agree with you. Systems only improve when people have high expectations and challenge bad practice. But this is more than bad practice and is possibly illegal (and no, I am not suggesting the OP sues the school). The school has a duty to keep personal information about your children confidential and it has failed. It is nothing to do with the teacher involved, it could happen to anyone, but the system needs reviewing, and it is perfectly reasonable that you are angry.

If I hadn't read this, I think I would have assumed that emails with attachments to parents have some sort of check in schools, just because it is so easy to select the wrong document and press send. I wonder if the Information Commissioner's Office (just looked it up) or anyone has any standards about this (waves hand vaguely)?

This is more than just a technicality: those who think it doesn't really matter - personal and health information can be used to victimise, bully, and blackmail people - and no-one has a crystal ball to see how it will be used. The organisations entrusted with it MUST keep it safe. http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/sector_guides/education

Ladymuck Tue 21-May-13 09:19:50

This sort of error happens in every type of organisation. It is simply human error. Until you get rid of the humans, you can only take some preventative steps but you can't guarantee this won't happen.

If there was an easy way to prevent this, then why don't you suggest it? The only one that I can think of is to essentially put a firewall around the school netwrok so that they cannot send any messages to anyone outside of the network including parents. Do you think that will improve things? It is how elements of the security forces work (where these breaches could cost lives). Whether any school could afford it is another matter.

Do your expectations of perfections extend to all aspects of life?

There seems to have been no intention to breach confidentiality, and possibly the teacher is completely unaware that they have done so, much less that a parent has now divulged that fact on a public site.

Cheecheemonkey Tue 21-May-13 09:44:38

Of course they didn't intend to breach confidentiality, that is utter nonsense. However to say something is just human error doesn't alter the situation and there is quite obviously some room for mprovement. Do we stand back and accept that these sensitive and confidential documents occasional get sent out in error, or do we look at how to improve things?

I am not a computer geek but would happily and readily suggest preventative measures if I were. I am merely a lowly parent who would really prefer her children's private information not be accidentally sent to any Joe Bloggs.

No, for the record, I do not have expectations of perfection in all aspects of my life as life itself is imperfect. Why you should ask that is beyond me really. What I have said, and shall say for the last time is that children's personal and private data should be treated with the utmost care and caution. If mistakes happen then there is usually room for improvement or better training. If these issues go unreported then improvements may not be deemed necessary.

I shall leave it there as I am now more concerned at the ignorant and accusatory comments on this site than I was at the original issue. sad

cory Tue 21-May-13 10:03:06

If it's the second time it's happened then I would suggest you point that out and suggest they may want to look over their procedures/training of staff.

As other posters have said, human error will happen. If human errors of the same kind happen repeatedly in an organisation, that is when they need to look over their procedures.

If pupils misbehaved repeatedly in one particular manner, the head would give a training assembly on that aspect. A training session for teachers in double-checking procedure might be the answer. Not naming and shaming, just working with reinforcing.

BeckAndCall Tue 21-May-13 10:17:37

Whilst it clearly was a mistake, that doesn't mean you don't alert them to the mistake!

There should be a 'confidential data handling policy', acknowledging the Data Protection act, which should have procedures to prevent this happening. If they don't know it's happened, and therefore that their procedures have broken down or not been followed, then how can they learn for the future.

It's not a question of complaining it's a question of reporting and allowing them to learn from mistakes and then amend their procedures.

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